Creamy Cabbage Gratin

When it's a long weekend I sometimes start anticipating the end of it before it even begins.  It's kinda crazy. There are so many things that I want to pack into the time.  This particular long weekend my list has been especially long.
The May long weekend (Victoria Day here in Canada) is traditionally the weekend when it become safe to plant all your annuals and vegetables.  So, that's the first thing on my list.  So far I have some onion, some tomato plants.  I also got these...

and I'm pumped about getting all of this in the ground.  It's a start.
Kid #2 needed new shoes and a haircut... got that out of the way.
We were also getting together with one of my best friends.  We've known each other for just over 20 years, through way too many ups and downs to even start listing.
Having my friend T coming over meant cooking... which lead me to finally get to this spot.  I've been eyeing it for a while.  We decided recently that we were committed to finding meat that was both local and grass-fed or pastured.  However, that usually means getting in touch with local farmers or joining a meat CSA (yes, they do exist people) and, most importantly, investing in a chest freezer.  We will invest in a chest freezer eventually but just don't feel like we're in a position financially to do it right now.  So when I spotted this place I had to check it out.  Sure enough, grass-fed, local, mennonite farmers and I can purchase just what I need without over stocking.  I finally got there yesterday and brought home a fresh chicken that blew me away... beautiful.
So, roasted chicken, roasted carrots, mashed potato with chives and sour cream, gravy and brownies (post is on it's way) were on the menu last night.  But I was feeling pumped and kinda antsy.  I also knew this that cabbage had been waiting so patiently for me to give it some love.  I had to try this.

The recipe is from Deborah Madison and it's a beautiful, simple, tasty way to incorporate cabbage in a meal.  It was not terribly labour intensive but managed to be more than satisfying...
We had a great time... eating a lot, drinking even more and laughing freely... more fun crossing something off of a 'to-do' list than should be allowed and a wonderful kick-off to a long weekend.

Creamy Cabbage Gratin adapted slightly from 'Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone'
serves 4 or 6 (as a side)

Butter for the baking dish
1 1/2 lbs (about 5 cups) cabbage (savoy or green), sliced into 1 inch thick strips
1/3 cup flour
11/2 cups milk
1 cup sour cream
3 eggs
1/2 cup cheddar grated
1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated
3 tbsp parsley or dill, chopped fine
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp tomato paste (I used a small amount of ketchup - didn't have the paste)
1 tbsp Worcestershire Sauce
dash of pepper sauce or cayenne

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
Butter a deep sided baking dish and set aside.
Boil the cabbage in salted water for about 5 minutes.  Drain and press out as much water as possible.  Set aside.
Whisk together the remaining ingredients.  Combine everything in the baking dish.  Make sure that the liquid almost covers the cabbage.  Add a little more milk if needed.  Sprinkle a little parmesan cheese on the top of the baking dish.
Bake about 40 min (the recipe says 50 but mine was starting to burn at the edges by about 42 minutes or so).  Keep an eye on it and if it needs 50 minutes then that's cool.
Cool a little and serve.

Saffron Rice Fast Food

You know things are changing for you when the above becomes your idea of fast food... but there it is.
We had a crazy saturday at our house last weekend.   Kid #1 had a dress rehearsal in the north end of the city.  Then she had a music theory exam downtown.  Then we picked up my mother-in-law and we all went to Kid #1's Choir concert back in the north end of the city.  Then we collapsed.
Fortunately, Mom-in-law provided dinner for us but lunch... well that had to be on the road.
Here is where I could have just gone to a drive thru and gotten it done, right?  Wrong.  I thought about it and decided that:
a.  We have perfectly good food that will go to waste here if it doesn't get eaten.
b.  I don't actually like fast food (except for Taco Bell... there I said it)
c.  Kid #1 needs to have something better than fast food in her belly before this exam and to get her through the rest of her afternoon.
d.  I don't want to spend the money.
So, I cooked up a mean stir fry, threw in some chick peas, tossed it with some rice, put it into containers and we took that with us for lunch.  You know what?  It was good... really good.  Nobody missed the fast food, nobody asked for the fast food and we felt better nourished.  The cash we saved with our lunch went to treat ourselves to this after the theory exam... and I'm not sorry for it one bit.  I'm not giving you that recipe yet though... sorry.
What I've got here is another example of fast, good for you and tasty.  It's a kitchen sink kind of thing.  Whatever I've got in the veggie drawer goes in.  If you have some leftover meat, throw that in too.  Don't have any rice?  Use some orzo or couscous... whatever.  I added in some saffron because I thought that it would taste out of this world... yeah it makes a big difference.

The better the stock you use the better the dish will taste but honestly it's not a deal breaker.  I did happen to use some wicked-ass stock that I made last week out of 4 chicken carcasses but dang, I'd use bouillion cubes in a pinch.

So if you are wondering whether to pick up the phone or get in the car to get yourself some fast food... at least give a thought to what you've got in the fridge and pantry.   Think of the benefits.

Kitchen Sink Saffron Rice
serves 4 - 6

3/4 tsp of saffron (soaked for 10 - 15 minutes in a little water)
1 1/2 cups uncooked rice
3 cups broccoli florets
1 small onion, diced
1 cup (or so) pepper, diced
3 cups mushrooms, quartered
3 cups spinach, stemmed and diced
3 cups good quality stock
3 tbsp of mixed herbs (your choice)
2 tsp salt
pepper sauce (come on, you know I gotta throw that in)

Heat a large pot over medium heat.  Throw in a little oil or grease or butter (whatever you got) and add in the veggies.  Toss that around for a few minutes, letting the veggies begin to get a little soft.
Turn the heat down a bit and add in the rice.  Toss the rice with the veggies until everything is well mixed.
Add in the stock, saffron, herbs, salt and pepper sauce (optional).  Stir well.
Cover and simmer over low heat for about 20 minutes or until the rice is cooked.  Check and make sure that you don't need to add more liquid half way through.
Cool slightly and serve.  Feel good about what you've done today.

Dave's Chocolate Chip Cookies

When exactly does one need yet another chocolate chip cookie recipe?  Especially when one has so many chocolate chip cookie recipes already.  Not to mention, some great chocolate chip cookie recipes in there.  Remember these?  And these?  And how about these lovelies?
Turns out that I have a thing about repeating old recipes and I love trying new ones.  Is this particular cookie version monumentally, earth shatteringly different than some of the other chocolate chip cookie recipes?  No.  But here is why it was important for me to make these cookies today:
1.  I got this cookbook and needed to try something from it ASAP.
2.  After the failed whoopie pie event earlier this week, I needed something soothing and familiar.
3.  I haven't baked with chocolate in a while.
4.  I like eating chocolate chip cookies.
5.  It's raining outside.
6.  This is the first day off I've had in two weeks.  I need a reward and YES I do reward myself with food 'cause, damn... life is too short.
I could go on but it's all going to revolve around the same points really.
These cookies called for ludicrous amounts of chocolate - I'm there.  I left out the nuts because... I just did ok.  I didn't want anything polluting my chocolate chip cookie experience today and nuts would have been cookie pollution.

Also, it seems that the key to fantastic, out of this world cookies is to let the dough rest.  So, I let it rest... in my fridge for 24 hours give or take.  The rest of the recipe is pretty much nothing you haven't seen before.  Just for the record the log slicing thing didn't work for me because I used ludicrously large chunks of ludicrous amounts of chocolate so I kinda had to break my logs up and then form them from there.
So, this rainy Sunday afternoon found me sitting on me couch, curled up in a blanket, watching something mindless, feeling just so slightly sorry for myself (stupid whoopie pies can chew my crust - but don't worry, I'll try them again) and eating awesome chocolate chip cookies.

Chocolate Chip Cookies adapted slightly from Dave Lebovitz

2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
3/4 tsp baking soda (oops, I used baking powder)
1/8 tsp salt
1 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
1 cup light brown sugar (I used muscovado)
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 lg eggs at room temperature
2 cups nuts (walnuts, pecans, macadamia...) toaste and coarsely chopped (I didn't do this)
14 oz or 3 cups chocolate chunks, chips ... whatever

Combine the flour, baking soda and salt together in a bowl and set aside.
Cream together the butter, vanilla, brown sugar and sugar together in another bowl until light and fluffy.  Add in the eggs one at a time and mix well after each addition.
Combine the flour and butter/egg mixture.  Mix until well incorporated.
Add the nuts and chocolate chips.
Form the dough into two logs (about the diameter of a paper towel roll), cover and refrigerate for about 24 hours.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Line a baking sheet with a silicone liner or parchment paper.
Cut each log into 1 1/2 inch thick discs.  Place on the liner, leaving space between each cookie.
Bake for about 10 minutes (I baked mine sometimes just a little less so they would be gooier)
Remove from oven and cool on a cooling rack.

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St Michael's Choir School is celebrating it's 75th anniversary year of service to St Michael's Cathedral. Part of the school celebration is a trip to Italy where our boys from Grades 5 - 12 will be performing and celebrating Mass. This blog will be chronicling our adventures. Wanda Thorne is the Vocal Coach at St Michael's Choir School. Gerard Lewis is the Grade 7/8 Homeroom teacher at the Choir School.

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Wanda Thorne
St Michael's Choir School is celebrating it's 75th anniversary year of service to St Michael's Cathedral. Part of the school celebration is a trip to Italy where our boys from Grades 5 - 12 will be performing and celebrating Mass. This blog will be chronicling our adventures. Wanda Thorne is the Vocal Coach at St Michael's Choir School. Gerard Lewis is the Grade 7/8 Homeroom teacher at the Choir School.
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